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Extract and giveaway: Shattered Minds by Laura Lam

18 Jun

Today is my stop on the Shattered Minds blog tour. Thanks to fab publisher Macmillan, I have an exclusive extract from the book and a copy of the beautiful hardback to give away! Please do check out the other stops on the tour too – there’s an extract each day so start at the beginning and read on from there!

Laura Lam’s Shattered Minds stars a female ‘Dexter’ with a drug problem and a conscience, in a terrifying near-future where technology rules our lives and haunts our dreams.

shattered mindsShe can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever.

Extract

THREE

CARINA

The Zealscape, Green Star Lounge, Los Angeles,

California, Pacifica

Carina’s drug dreams always begin the same way.

She’s back in Greenview House. Her father bought it even though it was far too big for three people, outside Woodside, California, less than an hour by hovercar out of San Francisco. Nothing but trees surrounded that house that would become a crypt. She couldn’t wait to leave, and now, eight years later, she still can’t escape it.

Carina walks through the empty hallways, her footsteps echoing. Nothing exists outside of the house in the Zealscape, not really, and the windows only look out into a grey fog. All her dreams and nightmares take place in its various rooms. Even if the rooms can expand into streets or forests, no matter how vast, she can turn a corner and step back into those familiar corridors. She tried to change the Zealscape program to another setting, but in the end, her subconscious is too tied to Greenview House and everything that happened here.

She opens the door to the room where she last saw the young girl and the doctor she knows from earlier nightmares. They are nowhere to be seen.

‘Anyone here?’ she calls. ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are!’

Silence.

Carina turns away. Needing her fix, she creates her first victim, bringing him to life on a table before her, prepped just as she wishes. Half the fun is the hunt, but when she first plugs in, there’s never the patience for it. It’s an appetizer of violence before the more leisurely meal.

Carina has a very specific type, here in the Zealscape. She kills criminals, perpetrators of terrible, fictional crimes. They are usually men, middle-aged, cocky in their assurance that they are getting away with their wrongdoings. She has killed women, for a bit of variety, often ‘angel of death’ types. Never children or teenagers – which is why the vision of the girl was so damn jarring.

Where had that come from?

The Zealscape is where Carina lets it all out so that those people out in the real world, those strangers who seem as insubstantial as her dream creations, are safe from her. She has killed hundreds of figments within these walls over the last six months. Used almost every weapon. Killed quickly. And slowly. The one constant is that she never tires of it.

The man pushes against his bonds, the whites of his eyes showing. Carina has created him a serial killer, like her, but he preys on the innocent. He buries young boys beneath his house, like John Wayne Gacy. He’s not real, but he deserves death.

Her fingers itch and she moves closer. His chains rattle as his struggles grow more frantic. A desperate, delicious gurgling bubbles from his throat. Her fingers tingle in anticipation, and her heartbeat quickens.

Carina doesn’t speak to her victims. She did in the beginning, trying to make these fabrications of her imagination understand what she was about to do to them. It grew dull, unlike the act of killing.Carina sometimes finds her situation amusing, when she’s coherent enough for amusement. The government doles out unlimited Zeal to keep criminals off the streets, yet offers them an unlimited playground to hone their criminal skills. With chronic Zealot mortality rates as high as eighty per cent, however, the government doesn’t have much to fear.

Closing her eyes to concentrate, she opens them to a long, thin knife resting in her hands. There are some weapons she prefers – the knife is particularly instinctual, personal, whereas the gun is too distant, even if the kickback and the crack are satisfying.

Carina hefts the knife.

The man below her is in his physical prime, muscled as a wrestler. He’s strong, the chains binding him straining with each pull. Her usual type is older, paunchier. Though she still buzzes with the need to kill, she forces herself to slow down, at least a little. She runs the knife tip along his skin next to the bonds. A tear slides down his cheek. She wipes it away with her thumb, then brings her fingertip to her mouth, tasting the salt. It feels real. Real enough.

His pain and fear feeds her, as if she grows larger from it. Only here, when the blood runs onto the white floor, does she feel alive any more. Carina is not that wreck of a woman strapped to a Chair in the Zealot room, suffering from mouth sores and malnutrition. That woman is the ghost.

The man whimpers again. Carina relishes the sound for a moment, then stands and thrusts the knife into his throat. Blood spurts from the punctured artery, painting her face red. She leans her head back, holding the hilt tighter, pressing down hard. All too soon the gurgles stop. She has not given this man a name, or imagined what life he might have lived outside his crimes. His eyes are wide, his mouth open in shock. She takes her hands away from the hilt. Her hands stop shaking. Carina sits next to the body, closing her eyes, breathing in the iron tang of blood.

She’s euphoric after the kill, and these brief moments before the craving returns are the only times she feels even remotely like her pre-Zeal self. Guilt bleeds in around the edges, even if she can’t regret that glee of the kill.

A few years ago, Carina had this under control. An occasional impulse she could push back and ignore. Nothing bubbled to the surface; it hadn’t since she was a teenager. She’d seemed like a perfectly functioning member of society. A great career, a promising future. And then, slowly but surely, it had all unravelled. A Zeal trip here or there. Once a month. Then twice a month. Weekly. By the time she’d left Sudice, it’d been every other day.

Now, she rarely leaves. She doesn’t trust herself out there. A wolf among sheep who’d never see her coming.

When she opens her eyes, the body is gone. A benefit of dream worlds: no clean up. No fear of being discovered dumping the body. No fear of discovery at all.

Dealing with the orderly’s accusing eyes is the only judgement she faces, and one she never fears.

She holds onto her sense of self, staying calm and collected. Replete. The mind of the scientist is back. She wanders the imaginary halls of her childhood home, peeking through the doors: the old home gym, her mother’s bedroom, preserved just as it was the last time she left it and never returned. Her teenage room, with its holographic band posters and unmade bed, reeking of a desperate attempt at normalcy.

All too soon, that buzz returns. Her fingers twitch. That delicious expectation of following her victim and their moves: where they’ll be, how she’ll take them and make them hers. Her thoughts turn only to blood and flayed muscles. Of taking out organs and hefting them in her hands, arranging them just so.

Here in the Zealscape, she can lose herself in the hunt as much as she wants. Here, she hurts only herself, as more and more of her body wastes away, strapped in the Chair in the Zeal lounge. Her body warms, thrums with excitement. She whispers Zeal’s newest catchphrase to herself: ‘More real than reality.’

Carina enters another room. In the real Greenview House, it was a guest bedroom and study, but now it is her planning room. One wall is blank, and she can visualize and design her next victim. She decides to go back to her roots: a distorted echo of her first target. Carina builds the man from scratch. Early fifties, a beer gut, hair and beard of greying brown. Hard eyes, an unhappy slash of a mouth. Large hands that make blocky fists. He is different enough that the sight of his face doesn’t make her shudder. She feels awareness sharpening. She’s growing closer. Her fingers twitch.

After creating him, she sends him away. She spends a few minutes programming his background – his job, his friends, sketches of his wife and family. This criminal has a penchant for child porn. She can again pretend it’s vengeance, not pure, selfish pleasure. Most Zealots don’t have such control over their drug-fuelled dreams. Then again, most people don’t have PhDs in neuroprogramming.

She can’t wait any more. Her skin is hot with need.

Carina walks through a door on the far side of the room and steps into a hallway that transitions seamlessly into a street. She follows her prey at a distance, watching the greying head bob as he walks. Her jaw is clenched tight. She barely blinks. The other people on the street are only vaguely human- shaped, with blurred ovals for faces. Nightmares for anyone else, but for her, just stand-ins.

Carina grasps a Stunner she conjured in her pocket. Sometimes she’ll stretch out the hunt – stalk them for longer, make their lives more detailed, lose herself in the fantasy – but she can’t today. Her breath catches in her throat. Her eyes in the Chair, back in reality, dilate behind closed eyelids. Almost time. Almost time to feel alive again, for a little while.

She’s just taken out the Stunner in a quivering hand when it happens.

The street disappears, along with her quarry. Just gone, as if someone has hit a switch. The whole room turns black. No, darker – that blackness of the space between stars. There have been glitches in the system before, but Carina knows, with a deep certainty, that this is something more.

She’s lost the sense that she has a body. Her mind seems to float in the darker-than-darkness. Then light explodes back into her world.

Numbers, sounds, flashes of brightness, the feel of fingernails against her skin, of bubbles on her tongue. All her senses fragment and blur. Between the overloads is a snapshot of cohesive thought.

I’m dying. This is what dying must feel like.

The noise and the chaos begins to crystallize. Five images, over and over: A bee, buzzing, its wings flapping frantically, its antennae twitching. A rose, in full bloom; brilliantly, impossibly red, a drop of dew on one petal. A thorn, from the rose, its point curved and wicked. A drop of blood, welling on a fingertip. And eyes, staring right at her, wide and fathomless. Heterochromic – one green, one blue. They play, over and over and over again, telling a narrative she cannot hope to understand.

And then they stop, though she can still sense them, as though the images are flashing just out of sight.

The last image, the mismatched eyes, takes over her entire vision. It zooms out, until Carina sees the rest of the face, and then a body on a Chair in that lab she recognizes all too well. The last vision had been through the girl’s viewpoint, but Carina is sure this is her. She’s young – fifteen, sixteen at a push. She’s all doe-eyed innocence, spindly, coltish legs, her hair half an inch long. She reminds Carina a little too much of herself as a teenager. The girl is dead.

Part of her short hair has been shaved away. Dr Roz Elliot has opened up her skull, poked about in the contents, and sewn it back up, yet dead flesh does not knit. Her tanned skin is pale and chalky, legs akimbo.

‘What did you do, Roz?’ Carina asks the darkness.

The dead girl does not answer. Her eyes are open and staring. One blue, one green.

As if Carina blinks, the image is gone, and all is darker than black once again.

Giveaway!

I have one hardback copy of Shattered Minds to give away.

To enter this giveaway,  just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets about this giveaway or like one of my posts about this giveaway on my Instagram page.

I’ll pick a winner using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Friday 23rd June.

Good Luck!

 

Book review: Spandex and the City by Jenny T Colgan

23 May

spandex and the cityLOCAL GIRL SWEPT OFF HER FEET

Mild-mannered publicist Holly Phillips is unlucky in love. She’s embarrassed beyond belief when the handsome stranger she meets in a bar turns out to be ‘Ultimate Man’ – a superpowered hero whose rescue attempt finds her hoisted over his shoulder and flashing her knickers in the newspaper the next day.

But when Holly’s fifteen minutes of fame make her a target for something villainous, she only has one place to turn – and finds the man behind the mask holds a lot more charm than his crime-fighting alter-ego.

Can Holly find love, or is superdating just as complicated as the regular kind?

I’m on a bit of a roll at the moment with quirky, geeky romantic books, the latest of which Spandex and the City looks at what it might be like to date a superhero! Jenny T. Colgan will be very familiar to many readers as the author (minus the T.) of hits such as The Little Beach Street Bakery  and The Little Shop of Happily Ever After. Having read and enjoyed jenny’s other books I was so pleased to see that she is taking her writing in a fun new direction and I very much enjoyed this book which is witty, action packed, quirky and romantic.

Holly is a twenty-six year old publicist who works at the Mayor’s office. Whilst out drinking with a friend one night she finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes the target for a villain who is targeting the city. Holly is rescued by ‘Ultimate Man’ and it’s the start of an intriguing relationship! Holly is a fun character with a penchant for sarcasm and she is a bit of a magnet for trouble! Colgan gets the mix of insecure twenty something, pop culture references and dating disasters just right and this makes for an engaging and surprising read.

I loved that I was wrong footed a number of times as I read and the pleasure Jenny T Colgan gets from the fantasy elements of her story just bounces off the page. There’s dastardly twists, implausible situations and excellent comic timing but underneath all of that there’s also a little bit of a message about our society and the way that technology is influencing our lives.

If you love rom-coms but would like to try something different; dream of having your very own superhero or if you’re just looking for a fun escapist read this summer then Spandex and the City could be just the book for you!

4/5

Spandex and the City is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Orbit

Find out more about Jenny and her writing at: https://www.jennycolgan.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.

Event news: Brilliant Quirk Books events 26th-29th May!

21 May

As regular readers will know, I’m a huge fan of Quirk books (read my review of the brilliant Geekerella to see what I mean!) and I’m very excited to share with you that Quirk books have an action-packed set of events to entertain you this Bank Holiday weekend!

 MCM ComicCon

First of all, why don’t you stop off at MCM ComicCon London? One minute, get your photo taken with Archie from Riverdale or The Hulk, the next, head to Author Corner and listen to awesome women in publishing talk about comics, amazing women in history, and twisted fairytales.

http://www.mcmcomiccon.com/london/attractions/author-corner/

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Waterstones Piccadily

Then, head to the book heaven that is Waterstones Piccadilly on Monday, 29th May for an evening of book chat and wine, plus the chance to grab swag and win awesome prizes.

https://www.waterstones.com/events/bookpop-with-ashley-poston-hope-norton-and-sam-maggs/london-piccadilly

*Quirk Books will not accept responsibility for overstimulated minds and having too much fun in one go.

Event write up: #OrionBlogFest

15 May

IMG_7955At the end of April I attended the #OrionBlogFest. I felt very lucky to be among the bloggers and booksellers in attendance and it was brilliant to hear first-hand from the teams at Orion, Gollancz and W&N about the exciting new fantasy and sci-fi books that are coming out in the next six months. The teams’ enthusiasm for their authors and books was impressive and infectious and as a result my wish list has grown massively!IMG_7963

The event started with fab Stranger Things themed food and cakes – look at the cakes!!Then it was into one minute pitches for upcoming releases. These were so much fun and the addition of a timer and buzzer kept everyone on their toes.

Here are my hot picks from those pitched:

IMG_7957The House of Shattered Wings series by Aliette de Bodard (out now)

The second book in this magical urban fantasy series The House of Binding Thorns has just been released and both books sound excellent!

Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital. House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls. Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation; or the architects of its last, irreversible fall . . .

The Switch by Justina Robson (18th May) IMG_7958

Science, magic and politics come together in the pursuit of a perfect ‘model’ society. I can’t wait to read this one!

In Harmony, only model citizens are welcome.

A perfect society must be maintained. The defective must be eradicated. For orphans like Nico and Twostar, this means a life that’s brutal, regulated and short.

But Nico and Twostar are survivors, and when they’re offered a way out of the slums, they take it.

Unfortunately, no one told Nico the deal included being sentenced to death for the murder of one of Harmony’s most notorious gang leaders.

Or that to gain his freedom, first he must lose his mind.

IMG_7959The Falcolner trilogy by Elizabeth May

I can’t believe this was the first I’d heard of this series – it sounds right up my street! The final book, The Fallen Kingdon will be out in June so I grabbed a copy of book one (pictured) and I’m looking forward to starting it soon.

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (10 August 2017)crosstalk

Described as Sliding Doors meets Rainbow Rowell, this one went straight onto my wish list!

Briddey is about to get exactly what she thinks she wants . . .

Briddey is a high-powered exec in the mobile phone industry, overseeing new products from concept (‘anything to beat the new apple phone’) to delivery. And she works with her wonderful partner, Trent. They’ve been together for six magical weeks, in a whirlwind of flowers, dinners, laughter and now comes the icing on the cake: not a weekend away or a proposal but something even better. An EDD. A procedure which will let them sense each other’s feelings. Trent doesn’t just want to tell her how much he loves her – he wants her to feel it.

Everything is perfect.

The trouble is, Briddey can’t breathe a word of it to anyone (difficult, when the whole office is guessing) until she’s had two minutes to call her family. And they’re hounding her about the latest family drama, but when they find out about the EDD – which they will – they’ll drop everything to interrogate her. And it might just be easier to have the procedure now and explain later.

The race is on: not just for new, cutting-edge technology, but also for a shred of privacy in a public world and – for Briddey – a chance for love at the heart of it all.

IMG_7961Three other books to look out for coming later in the year are: Sweet Dreams are Made of this by Tricia Sullivan, a book about Dreamhacking – the ability to enter someone’s dreams and influence them, which is out in September;  Mirror Mirror by Clara Delevinge  and The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli (proof pictured), both out in October. I’m so excited for Autumn reading already!

We then got to hear from three authors about their exciting new releases;  Joanne M Harris, Dan Vyletta and Ed McDonald made up a fabulous panel and it was so interesting to hear them speak about their books and their writing.

Following a book grab, pizza and signing break we were treated to a skype interview with  Kristen Ciccarelli whose gorgeous proof (above) was one of the highlights of the evening for me and was exclusively revealed to us at the event.

As a child, Asha’s mother told her ancient, forbidden stories to drive away her nightmares – and the telling of them killed her. And when Asha repeated those stories, they summoned an ancient dragon which almost destroyed her city, and left Asha horribly scarred. Ever since, she has protected her city and people (and tried to make amends) by dragon-slaying. And now she may have a way to both atone for the deaths she caused and to escape an arranged marriage: her father will free her, in exchange for the head of Kovu, the ancient dragon. And the only obstacle in her path is a defiant slave-boy . .

The night ended with a bookish quiz and I went home one very happy blogger. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Stevie and the team at Orion for putting on such a fab event. Look out for more details of #GollanczFest coming soon and do share which books you’re looking forward to in the comments below!

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Book news: New Covers for Rae Rivers’ Keepers Series!

30 Apr

I’m a big fan of Rae Rivers’ urban fantasy/paranormal romance series The Keepers so I was very excited to see that HarperImpulse has given the trilogy a fab makeover. In the new covers we get to see Keeper brothers Ethan, Archer and Declan on the front of their books for the first time! Here they are in all their glory! If you’d like to try the series, the prequel, The Keepers: Sienna is FREE to download!

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The Keepers is a Paranormal Romance series with a unique premise consisting of a powerful witch with three warrior brothers, the Keepers, duty-bound to defend her.  They are her friends, her fierce protectors and her allies in maintaining the balance of nature.

An evil rival family is out for revenge, determined to tip the balance in their favour.  Sienna and her Keepers will do whatever it takes to stop them.  

Will their strength, loyalty and love survive the ultimate war?

Archer Water Image

Each book can be read as a standalone romance, or for a richer reading experience, the books can be read in order:  Sienna (The FREE Prequel), Archer, Declan and Ethan.

Three brothers, four stories, an exciting adventure of magic, mayhem, and breathtaking romance.  

Download your FREE eBook, Sienna, and enjoy their world!

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Rae Rivers is an avid reader with a passion for writing spicy romance novels.  She writes Romantic Suspense and Paranormal Romances.  She lives in Cape Town, South Africa, with her husband and children and a zoo of house pets.  Besides writing, she loves family time, the outdoors, travelling, watching TV series, reading and chocolate.  

She loves to hear from her readers and can be found here:

www.raerivers.com Facebook Twitter Instagram Wattpad Goodreads Pinterest

Ethan Air Image

Giveaway! Two copies of Skullsworn by Brian Staveley to be won!

20 Apr

I’m spoiling you this week with a second giveaway! I have two beautiful hardback copies of Skullsworn by Brian Staveley to give away.

skull cover

For one apprentice assassin, the clock is ticking . . . Skullsworn follows Pyrre, a priestess attempting to join the ranks of the God of Death, who goes back to the city of her birth to pass the final test of her religious order: killing ten people in a month. The trouble is, the test stipulates that among the ten offerings, one must be a person that she loves . . . 

Pyrre Lakatur doesn’t like the description skullsworn. It doesn’t capture the beauty of her devotion to Ananshael, God of Death. She is not an assassin, but a priestess. Or she will be, if she can pass her final trial. The problem isn’t killing: Pyrre has spent her life training to kill where needful. The problem is love. To pass the trial, a skullsworn must offer their partner to Ananshael – but Pyrre has never been in love, and time is short. 

Pyrre throws herself into the other aspects of her trial – until she’s arrested by the brilliant, enigmatic Commander Ruc Lan Lac. He might be Pyrre’s last chance at love, so she must stay close – even as he investigates the murders she’s committing. It’s a dangerous dance, trying to fall for a man whilst worshipping a god he loathes. If she succeeds, she must betray her only love. And if she fails, a violent death awaits them both . . .

To enter this giveaway,  just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets about this giveaway or like one of my posts about this giveaway on my Instagram page.

I’ll pick two winners using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Wednesday 26th April. Good Luck!

Guest post: Tears, the best editor by Brian Staveley

20 Apr

I’m delighted to welcome Brian Staveley to One More Page today to celebrate the release of his new fantasy novel, Skullsworn; a standalone novel, set in the world of Staveley’s critically acclaimed Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne trilogy.

Brian  has taught literature, philosophy, history, and religion before writing epic fantasy. He lives on a steep dirt road in the mountains of southern Vermont, where he divides his time between fathering, writing, husbanding, splitting wood, skiing, and adventuring, not necessarily in that order. Welcome Brian!

Staveley 3_4I try, as a general rule, not to catalogue those aspects of my personality that embarrass me, but if I were to attempt such a catalogue, one item that would definitely make the list is this: I’m a movie crier.

Fine, you say. Everyone cries during movies. Obviously, I haven’t made clear the extent of the issue. I’m not talking about movies like Million Dollar Baby or Saving Private Ryan (though I cry during those, too). I will cry during X-Men. I will cry during a trailer for X-Men. If a television commercial is sufficiently moving—like something for life insurance or Subaru—I might cry during that, too.

Now, fortunately, we’re not talking about gasping, bawling, unable-to-breathe sobbing. Most people don’t even know I’m crying because I can be quite sneaky about it. I get a little choked up. There might be a silent tear or two. In a darkened movie theater it almost always goes unnoticed, though one needs to be discreet at Super Bowl parties.

Interestingly, the crying doesn’t always correspond to the sad moments. In fact, the crying often corresponds to the goosebumps I get during training montages, or when some character does something cool, egged on by an excellent sound track. Think: Han Solo’s surprise return at the end of A New Hope. This, for me, is an even more effective tear-jerker than the sad moments, like when Wicket the ewok is burned alive on a pyre. Wait, what? That didn’t happen? Well, good. I like Wicket.

Anyway, as it turns out, this crying tendency of mine has actually come to serve a vital role in my writing life. I cry when reading just as much as I do when watching movies. The book doesn’t necessarily have to be good, but it needs to create a certain mood. When I started writing fantasy, I spent a fair amount of time analyzing my own reactions to books. Whenever I put a book down for the night, I’d take a few minutes and try to understand why I chose to stop reading at that point, rather than earlier or later. When I decided to forge on into another chapter, I’d ask myself what, specifically, was making me want to keep reading. And when a book made me tear up, I’d dig into that, too. I wanted to understand the technical skull coverunderpinnings to my emotional reactions.

My own books don’t make me cry—I’m too close to them, too mired in all the various drafts and unexplored possibilities. There are, however, two possibilities when I reread a scene that I’ve written: either I feel not all that much, or I feel a cold skin-prickle that I recognize as the precursor to what, if I were reading someone else’s book, might end up as tears. When I’m editing, I know the scenes that should elicit the skin-prickle. If they fail to do that, I rewrite them from the ground up. It’s not that I expect my readers to share all of my emotional reactions. Nor do I think every scene needs to be a tear-jerker. And yet it’s useful, in a job that can get so intellectual, to have a visceral barometer of a scene’s success, even if it’s just a personal one. And if I can get someone else to sob all over the book during their lunch hour, so much the better. I won’t need to feel quite so strange about my own silent weeping.

Skullsworn is published by Tor UK in hardback, ebook and audio formats on 20 April.

Find out more about Brian and his writing at: http://brianstaveley.com/index/

You can follow Brian on Twitter @Brian Staveley.

Stop by again later today for a chance to win a copy of Skullsworn.

Guest post: The Challenge of Writing Sizzle (When you’re used to Sweet) by Inge Saunders

9 Apr

Today I’m welcoming Inge Saunders to One More Page to talk about the challenges that she faced when writing her latest novella, The Wolf’s Choice. Inge lives in the biggest small town in South Africa‒ Worcester. She fell in love with books when she started reading romance novels with her grandmother. Intrigued by the worlds books unlocked, it was inevitable she would take pen to paper. She holds an Honors degree in Community Development and Learning Support and loves to sink her teeth into the research part of a story.

When she’s not writing about that ‘inexplicable attraction’ she’s reading almost every sub-genre in romance out there, spending time with friends and family and taking hikes in her hometown’s National Karoo Park.

Inge SaundersAs with all things in life, trying something new does bring its own set of challenges. And going from writing sweet contemporary romance to more spicy paranormal romance wasn’t the exception.

I remember at one point I did a post on my Facebook Author Page on the research I’d done on ‘how to approach writing a love scene’. Don’t worry I won’t do a recount here *smile*

But what is the challenge of writing sizzling instead of sweet? Romance is romance after all. There can’t be much difference between the two. And right there, I would lose my reader. Because a sweet romance reader is looking for something different than a reader who prefers a more sizzling read. As an author with a deep respect for readers (because I’m a reader myself) I sat back and dug deep to understand the complexity of the challenges I’m going to face as I tell the story.

The Wolf’s Choice is my first foray into romance that sizzles. It also forms part of a bigger world, The Black Hills Wolves, created by Heather Long and Rebecca Royce for Decadent Publishing. So I had to keep the requirements of the series in mind and stay true to what the creators had in mind of for it. And since the inspiration for the novella started off in my imagination with these two innocent teens meeting at the local Swimming Hole, I knew that I’m going to have a problem if I kept to my ‘old’ style of sweet romance writing (even though the scene when read on its own is sweet).

I think it’s good to note at this point that I don’t just read sweet romance. The romance books I buy range in heat levels, but I usually gravitate towards the stories that contain a happy medium. And that’s the crux for an author who’s going from a ‘clean’ read to a much hotter one. The first challenge you’ll face is to ask yourself, where’s my comfort level with the hotness-factor? Once you’ve established this, you’ll know whether you’ll be able to write a romance that sizzles or have to completely abandon that writing path.

The second challenge, I found, has to do with language, what words to use? Do you want to be graphic? What do your favorite authors use when they tackle a love scene? And most importantly, what type of language is used by the authors contracted for the series/line you want to write for? If the language is an issue for you, then don’t. To force is a crime *smile* and no one likes to be forced to do anything. I’ve read authors who use the words dick, pussy, etc. in such a jarring way that I stopped reading the story. To me, they are out of sync with their characters. If your heroine has never throughout the book even thought of sex or referred to her body parts in her mind or in the dialogue in erotic terms, then goodness why are you now suddenly having her using those terms? The language becomes jarring.

That’s something I had to study in The Wolf’s Choice. A woman with sexual experience wouldn’t necessarily be coy about sex. Though we all know it’s not that cut and dried, characters, like people are complex. (And this you’ll find out about my heroine Rebecca, when you read the story). But there are certain universal things we all accept and don’t about characters in novels.

So language is a definite challenge when writing a sizzling romance.

Don’t lose the plot. No seriously, don’t. Essentially you’re telling the story of two people falling in love and the obstacles that keep them from doing that. As a romance writer that’s your first priority. Don’t get bogged down by how hot your book’s supposed to be. Or by what page number your characters should have, at least, kissed. Or made love.  And don’t write love scenes as fillers. Some publishers might compromise story because sex is the subject of that imprint. But you have to keep in mind that at the heart of every romance is the emotional bond between the hero and heroine. The emotional bond adds layers to the sizzle and the sizzle in your story should advance the plot.

The important thing to acknowledge is that you’ll face challenges as you go along, but to not allow them to keep you from telling your story.

Thank you Inge.

The Wolf’s Choice is out now in ebook formats.

Find out more about Inge and her writing at:

Blog: https://ingesaunders.wordpress.com/

Books by Inge Saunders: http://bit.ly/1defI54

Twitter: @saunders_inge

The Wolf's Choice_1800x2700“I’ll pledge my loyalty to you through a blood oath, if you’ll support my choice of mate.”
Drew sank into his chair. “What does Rebecca have to say? The last time I spoke to her, she didn’t mention you.”
Blaine smiled. He hadn’t earned himself any favors. “She doesn’t know yet.”

Thirteen years ago Rebecca Ferguson died, at least to everyone in the Black Hills territory. With a human mother and unable to shift into a wolf, Magnum Tao, the deranged alpha of the Tao Pack would’ve had both her and her father killed for deceiving him. Magnum didn’t allow humans to mate with members of his pack.
Now Magnum is the one who’s dead, and Rebecca can return.
But coming back from the dead, building a new life after her divorce, and opening a library in town aren’t the only obstacles Rebecca faces. Elijah, her father, doesn’t approve of her being in Los Lobos to the point where he forbids her to get involved with the pack, especially the males.
Their relationship has suffered because of her absence and she hopes to bridge the divide, confident that she doesn’t want a romantic entanglement with anyone human or wolf, anyway.

In walks sexy private detective Blaine Walker.
Thirteen years ago Blaine stumbled on his mate at the local swimming hole. The next day, she was dead. Once he learns Rebecca is alive and living in Los Lobos, he decides it’s time to give up his career in Brooklyn and return to the Black Hills. But he knows it won’t be easy to claim her since Elijah’s unnaturally overprotective. The only way Elijah will back off is to challenge him.

A challenge that will end in one of their deaths.
The Tao Pack’s rebuilding itself and needs to guard against any threats outside or in. For Blaine to have any chance to claim Rebecca, Elijah needs to be dealt with and to deal with Elijah, Drew, the alpha of the Tao Pack, has to sanction the challenge according to pack law.

Rebecca can’t deny the old attraction she felt for Blaine is still there and even stronger now that they are grown up. She’s caught between the man fate has brought back to her and her father, whose affection she’s craved her whole life.
But there’s a secret governing Elijah’s erratic behavior that can cost Rebecca everything she’s worked hard to build and everything she thought she could never have with a man or wolf.
Will Rebecca and Blaine beat the odds stacked against them?
Or will the choices they make ultimately lead them down a path both of them don’t want?

Guest post: The Shimmering Girl at the Palace by Laura Lam

9 Mar

Today I’m very excited to have Laura Lam joining me on the latest stop of her Masquerade blog tour. Laura was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine. 

Masquerade is the third and final novel in Laura Lam’s Micah Grey trilogy, following Pantomime and Shadowplay. Welcome Laura!

Once there was a girl with dragonfly wings, who soared above the world. She looked down and saw happiness, and sadness, and wide expanses with no one at all save the animals and trees and rocks and streams. She flew all the way around the world, writing down whatever she saw. When she came back, she did not show anyone her little journal. It was her version of the world, and she wanted to keep it for her alone.

— ‘The Dragonfly Girl’, Hestia’s Fables 

Laura LamEvery chapter in the Micah Grey series has a short found document at the start, ranging from a variety of sources: history books, diaries, songs, poetry, and more. It’s basically a sneaky way to add in more worldbuilding and detail about Ellada & the Archipelago.

I seem to write a lot about girls in Hestia’s fables in this book, which I didn’t quite clock until I started writing about these excerpts. Hestia’s fable are sort of like Aesop’s fables—short apocryphal tales that people in Ellada would have grown up reading. Dragonflies and damselflies are also a reoccurring motif throughout the trilogy. People in Ellada often whisper that dragonflies can weigh the lightness or darkness of the soul, which I might have picked up from research somewhere. This excerpt came across a little wistful, which I like. What did the dragonfly girl see on her travels?

If you buy Pantomime or Masquerade & send your receipt to Laura, you can claim a free 10k short story, “The Mechanical Minotaur,” set in the same world. If you buy all three, you can claim 60k of free fiction as well. More details here.

Masquerade is released today in paperback by Pan.

The gifted hide their talents, but dare they step into the light? 9781509807789

Micah’s Chimaera powers are growing, until his dark visions overwhelm him. Drystan is forced to take him to Dr Pozzi, to save his life. But can they really trust the doctor, especially when a close friend is revealed to be his spy?

Meanwhile, violent unrest is sweeping the country, as anti-royalist factions fight to be heard. Then three chimaera are attacked, after revealing their existence with the monarchy’s blessing – and the struggle becomes personal. A small sect decimated the chimaera in ancient times and nearly destroyed the world. Now they’ve re-emerged to spread terror once more.  Micah will discover a royal secret, which draws him into the heart of the conflict. And he and his friends must risk everything to finally bring peace to their land.

Please do visit the other stops on the Masquerade tour!

Find out more about Laura and her writing at: http://www.lauralam.co.uk/

Book review: Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

13 Feb

hold back‘We’re going to be fine.’
He looks around, but there’s nothing out here: nothing but the bottomless black universe on their left, the Earth suspended in glorious technicolour to their right.

Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left. None of this was supposed to happen.
Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the world they left behind. A world whose rules they couldn’t submit to, a place where they never really belonged; a home they’re determined to get back to because they’ve come too far to lose each other now.

Hold Back the Stars is a love story like no other.

I’ve been really lucky to read some amazing books in 2017 already and Hold Back the Stars is definitely one of those ‘wow’ books. I loved this futuristic love story for its combination of elements of two of my favourite genres (romance and sci-fi) and Katie Khan’s look forward to what our world might become, had me fascinated – this book is a ‘must read’ debut this year.

Hold Back the Stars is set on Earth but not quite as we know it (though given recent political events I found the future described here scarily believable). Max and Carys are citizens of Europia; the unified collection of countries that now exist as one whole with a new world order. In Europia the individual is everything and people are literally made to be self-sufficient and go out to establish themselves on their own from a young age. I found Katie’s take on what the future might look like, clever and unique with lovely little touches to the descriptive writing that meant I read this book over a weekend and didn’t want to put it down.

The story opens with Max and Carys in space. They’ve made a mistake and managed to get away from their ship without propellant to get themselves back and have only 90 minutes of air left. At times, reading this story as the air supply went down made me feel a little claustrophobic but as a story telling device it adds brilliantly to the plot and tension of the novel. The playing out of those last ninety minutes far above Earth is broken up by the story of how Max and Carys got to this point, starting with their first encounter and charting their relationship as it develops in exceptional circumstances.

At its heart Hold Back the Stars is a love story and one that will stay with me for a long time. Like many great literary couples, Carys and Max are forbidden by the ‘couples rule’ to be a couple at their young ages (they are in their twenties). I’m not going to go into all the details of the world that Katie has created – a big part of the pleasure of reading this book was discovering the world as it is in her future vision – but I will say that its believable and cleverly done and examines some interesting philosophical debates around self, love, family, happiness and democracy. I’d love to add this book to our book group reading list as I think it would spark some really interesting conversations.

If you’re looking for something a little different from your reading this month then look no further –  if you love a beautifully written story, this is the book for you. I can’t wait to see what Katie writes next!

5/5

Hold Back the Stars is out now in hardback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Katie and her writing at: http://katiekhan.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.